What does international freight really mean?

Millions of people and businesses require goods to be shipped internationally on a regular basis. But what exactly does ‘international freight’ mean? Here we delve in to the history of the transportation of goods worldwide and take a brief look at some of the common shipping terms.

A brief history of international shipping
The term ‘international freight’ refers to goods transported in bulk by road, rail, ship and air to any destination worldwide. The movement of goods internationally can be traced back thousands of years to when ancient civilizations would ship grain across the globe.

The ancient Egyptians, with their strong naval force, were the first peoples to dominate the shipping trade. But over the ages, nearly every civilisation expanded their fleets to include some form of courier service in order to trade goods.

Up until the early 20th century, all international cargo, including mail, was sent by land or sea freight, with perhaps the exception of a few experimental deliveries by hot air balloon. But once air travel took hold, technological innovations meant that large quantities of light cargo could be sent across the world at a much quicker rate than by sea.

In 1956, trucking entrepreneur Malcolm P McLean bought a steamship company with the idea of transporting entire road vehicles containing their cargo. Eventually, it was thought that efficiency could be vastly improved if the same container, with the same cargo, could be transported between different ships, trucks and trains. This idea of intermodalism led to a revolution in cargo transportation and is the most widely used form of bulk cargo shipping today.
International shipping and freight glossary

Modes of shipment
Road & rail—Shipment of cargo by road and rail, directly from the shipper’s place to the destination, is known as a door to door shipment and more formally as multimodal transport. Trucks and trains make deliveries to sea and airports where cargo is moved in bulk.

Sea freight—Ocean freights are excellent for inter-continental delivery. They are often the cheapest method of global delivery, but can have a longer journey time.

Air freight—Typically the most convenient method, air freight is the quickest way to transport goods worldwide.
To avoid misunderstandings, it is a good idea to understand the common shipping terms when transporting goods internationally. These terms outline the responsibilities of the suppliers and buyers and include FOB, EXW and CIF/CFR.

FOB (Free on Board)—The supplier pays all the charges in the country of origin, so it is essentially “free” for the buyer to have the goods transported on to the ship.

EXW (Ex-Works)—This term means the buyer is responsible for all the costs and risks along the supply chain, i.e. from door to door.

CIF (Cost, Insurance & Freight)— On these terms the supplier will pay for all the cost to get the goods to the UK, then once in the destination port it becomes the buyer’s responsibility.

International freight forwarding with KG Logistics
At KG Logistics we provide a comprehensive range of international freight services. As one of the UK’s leading freight forwarding specialists, we always ensure our services are cost-effective and efficient. With our 35 years combined experience, we have built a reliable network of international agents that allows us to successfully deliver important shipments across the world always on time and on budget.

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